What startups are looking for Y Combinator in 2018

Original author: Y Combinator
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“People are more important than ideas.”
- Y Combinator


Many of the best ideas we funded were ideas that surprised us, not ideas that we were waiting for.

Nevertheless, there are some startup themes that are very interesting to us. Below is an updated request for startups (RFS), which outlines some of these ideas in general terms.

Please do not think that you need to work on one of these ideas to apply for Y Combinator. Although many of the areas listed below fall into the category of “advanced technologies”, the vast majority of startups that we finance will still be Internet companies and mobile companies that we have financed in the past. If this is what you wanted to do before this post, keep doing it.

In addition, you should not create a company just because it is in this list. RFS basically exists to encourage you to apply if you are already working on an idea in one of these areas.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has a big impact on society . So much so that we created for him a specific area within YC .

It seems that this may be one of the dividing lines in the history of technology, where before and after look completely different. We are interested in people conducting research in any narrow field (drug discovery, programming assistance, legal advice, fraud detection, etc.). And we are especially interested in areas that are located at the intersection of artificial intelligence and robotics ( , unmanned cars, etc.)


It is too early to rush to conclusions, but it seems that we are finally making real progress by “hacking” biology.

We are confident that this will be an amazing, powerful and controversial area over the next few decades. A similar situation was with microcomputers in the 1970s.

Engineering principles are now routinely applied in synthetic biology, and biology affects all aspects of life, from health to production, and even food and agriculture.

Biology can develop in many directions. This may be the fight against disease, slowing down aging, the merging of people and computers, loading memories, genetic programming, etc.

DNA reading has become incredibly fast and cheap. There are many interesting applications. Perhaps there will be even more interesting applications as we improve the record in DNA.

We are also interested in using biotechnology to prevent abuse of this technology. For example, if the bad guys can quickly create new infectious diseases, it would be nice if the good guys could quickly create new drugs and vaccines.

Note. To learn about the YC Bio program on health and biotechnology related to aging, follow this link .

Brick and Mortar 2.0 (Brick and Concrete 2.0)

We are interested in startups that present traditional advertising or retail space in interesting and effective ways.

Amazon takes malls and large stores out of business. Instead of fighting a losing battle with Amazon, brands need to rethink how to use the marketplaces in such a way as to play on their strengths. For example, Tesla, Warby Parker and Peloton use traditional premises as showrooms that complement their online sales channels. Without the need to store inventory, the retail space can be used much more efficiently.

Interesting use of the usual space is not limited to retail stores: enormous changes are happening with restaurants, entertainment venues, local service providers and office buildings. New companies will be created specifically for customers who are trained to expect features such as online ordering, deep integration with other services, and immediate delivery. Flexibility is key. For example, it is likely that the enterprises of the future will use “micro-leasing”, which lasts for days or even hours, rather than multi-year leases.

In addition, the era of large stores that have shifted consumer attention from the main street to suburban shopping centers surrounded by parking lots is likely to change as the era of self-government begins. When unmanned vehicles are in use, our relationship with the physical space will develop in ways that are difficult to predict. We want to see startups that think about this change and create new ways of using physical space.

CO2 reduction

The Paris Agreement set a global goal to limit the rise in Earth’s temperature to 1.5 ° C in this century. Simply switching to renewable energy sources will not be enough to achieve this goal. We also have to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Carbon removal and sequestration technologies are still in their infancy. Current solutions can be divided into two groups: natural (for example, reforestation and biochar) and technological (for example, direct air trapping). Two problems with direct air trapping are cost and scale. Several countries, including the US, have recently stepped up and created financial incentives to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but with the current technology it is still not profitable. For more information , contact the Carbon Removal Center..

Other geoengineering approaches to countering the effects of climate change may also have potential.


Recent scientific developments have changed our understanding of protein production.

For the first time, we can produce products that are scientifically indistinguishable from animal products, such as meat and dairy products, using only cells and without harming animals.

Today, people use farm animals mainly for the production of meat and dairy products. Regardless of whether you think it is cruel and wasteful, we know that it is ineffective. More and more people eat meat every year, but most of the available agricultural land in our world is already used for meat production. The agricultural sector is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world after the energy sector, and the use of antibiotics in agriculture poses a real danger to our own health care system.

Growing real animal meat directly from cages is a revolutionary science. We would like to finance more startups promoting this science to the market. We also want to finance startups that specialize in the scaling phase of cellular agriculture. The world will greatly benefit from more sustainable, cheaper and healthier meat production.

Cleaner foods

At the current rate of deforestation in 100 years there will be no rainforests.

There are many environmental reasons why this is bad, but it will also be a problem for industries relying on these increasingly scarce resources.

Startups have already begun to look at the need for cleaner consumer products, but manufactured goods, such as palm oil and soybeans, receive less attention.

For example, palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world — about 50% of grocery store products. In 2016, the global palm oil market was valued at $ 65 billion, and is expected to reach $ 92 billion by 2021. But palm oil production, as a rule, is based on rough, environmentally destructive cutting / burning methods, exploitative labor and gives the greatest amount of emissions approximating global warming, among all products except beef.

We believe that these market / low-tech industries may be interesting. Examples of startups that we would like to see are those that are working on synthetic products, greener alternatives or improving the supply chain. The issue of cost is likely to be very important here, much more important than for consumer products. It would be great if new jobs were created or if the solution would include reforestation.

Computer security

Protecting computers is a rather difficult task, because the work required is terribly asymmetric - the attacker must find only one flaw, and the defender must protect against all possible vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, ensuring the security of computers is not just difficult - it is critical and incredibly important. As more important information and systems are connected to the Internet, we become more vulnerable to cyber attacks, and violations become more serious.


A variety of employees is very good for business and for the whole world.

Without different perspectives, the products and services we create miss great opportunities for large groups of people. We want to finance non-profit organizations and startups that are working to make technology more attractive and attractive for people of all ages, races, sexual orientations and cultures.


If we can correct education, we can eventually do the rest on this list.

Human intellectual power is not fully utilized on this planet, because most people do not have access to good education. Strong educational programs lead to greater social mobility, improved work, improved quality of life for citizens, as well as an increase in the number of new and better startups. A small increase in the amount of knowledge gained in educational systems around the world would have a huge impact on human productivity and growth.

We are interested in new school models that can develop critical thinking, creativity, citizenship and working skills on a large scale. We are looking for ideas that combine technology and interaction between people to provide an individualized approach to learning.

We also know that 90% of the human brain develops before the age of 5, and gaps in achieving success open up in front of a kindergarten. We are interested in enterprises that will significantly improve results for children under five years old, reducing inequality and improving the quality of life for children and their families in the future. Scalable solutions in these areas should now become workable thanks to advances in cognitive science and technologies such as smart home devices, smart and mobile devices.


There is a significant relationship between the cost of energy and the quality of life.

Throughout history, when the cost of energy has greatly decreased (for example, in the case of a steam engine), the quality of life has improved significantly.

Cheap energy would make a significant contribution to poverty reduction. New sources of energy can also help the environment and the economy, reduce the number of wars, ensure a stable future, make food and water more accessible, and much more.

We believe that the economy will dominate - new sources should be cheaper than old ones, without subsidies, and be able to expand to the level of global demand. Nuclear energy can “agree to a deal” (hit the bid) and the same applies to renewable energy sources. But pricing is a matter of prime importance.

In addition to generating electricity, we are also interested in energy storage and transmission. Batteries, which will be 10 times better, will allow you to invent many new great things, as well as the ability to easily move energy.

Software for large companies

The software used by large companies is still terrible and still very profitable.

Category-defining software companies appear to address the problems of every industry, business of any size and every job function. Here are three specific areas that we find particularly interesting:

Cheaper products : Because of the cost of traditional enterprise software, many categories of solutions have previously been expensive for small or even medium-sized enterprises.

Another billion workers:Traditional office workers were corporate software users. Mobile phones and tablets transform every employee — from a retail store seller to a member of service teams — into a knowledge worker.

Digitizing every industry: every industry goes through some form of information disruption; This leads enterprises to modernize their practices, use new data, accelerate key processes, and provide digital interaction in the course of their work.

Financial servants

Global financial systems are increasingly unable to meet the needs of consumers and businesses.

This makes sense, since the rules designed to protect customers cannot change quickly enough to go at a pace in which technology changes the needs of these customers. This discrepancy creates inefficiency at almost every level of the financial system. This affects how people invest their savings, how companies gain access to capital to grow, how risks are inspected and insured, and how financial companies do business with each other.

We believe that software will accelerate the pace of change in financial services and ultimately change the nature of the rules. We want to finance companies with new ideas on how to do this.

Work of the future

The work will look very different after 25 years.

We have already seen a huge shift towards automation, robots and artificial intelligence, and the pace of their impact on work is not slowing down.

There is uncertainty about whether these new technologies will lead to more or fewer jobs in the aggregate. We are interested in your opinion on what will happen and what will happen next.

In particular, we want to find out what new work will be created to use these new technologies. And what can be built to help people and companies adapt to changing requirements for the skills they face.

We also want to know how the meaning of the work will evolve. People seek full-time work for many reasons, including money, health care and a sense of purpose. We would like to see solutions that relate to each of these factors (or any others) in anticipation of a change in the labor market.

Health care

Health care in the United States is severely impaired. We are approaching spending 20% ​​of our GDP on health care; this is no good.

We are interested in making healthcare better for less money, and not in companies that are going to use the system to get welded to it.

We are especially interested in healthcare startups working in the following areas:

  • Diagnosis: Diagnosis guides clinical decisions and can have a significant impact on healthcare. Now we can build diagnostics cheaper and faster than ever before, and the most important features are to take advantage of it.
  • Medical devices: prototyping and manufacturing costs are lower than ever, and computing power is higher than ever. We want to see devices that have the best clinical impact and how the data they generate can make medical devices more valuable than ever before.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Drug development has become slower and more expensive. We would like to finance companies that do it in a new way. We think globally: we are interested in things that cannot become prescription drugs, but still help people.
  • Preventive medicine: this is probably the best way to improve health. Sensors and data are interesting in many areas, but especially in the field of health.

Memory improvement

Human memory is too volatile.

Compared to computers, people have a rather strange memory system. We can recall the subtle emotions and feelings of 10 years ago, while forgetting where our phone is and what to take in the store. The increasing bombardment of information and ideas, of course, does not facilitate the work of our memory, as well as age-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The fusion of man and computer is already happening. Some solutions, such as voice assistants and carriers, can help complement short-term memory. More complex approaches are associated with neural interfaces, but new UX problems arise. We want to finance startups that are learning how to improve human memory with technology. Ideally, we cansolve the Mitch Hedberg problem once and for all.

Longevity and rejuvenation

YC Bio is a new way for YC to finance early life science companies that are still in the laboratory phase. The first area we are going to focus on is health and age-related diseases.

We believe that there is a huge opportunity to help people live healthier longer and that this may be one of the best ways to solve our health crisis.

This will be a special way. Companies will go through the standard YC procedure, but there will be a few differences. Instead of the usual deal for YC companies (which is $ 120,000, for a 7% share), we will offer these companies any amount from $ 500,000 to $ 1,000,000 for a 10-20% share, scaling linearly. We will also offer companies free lab space, a number of special deals and access to a wide range of experts.

Million jobs

We want to finance companies that can create a million jobs.

There are many areas where it makes sense to divide work between people and computers - we are very well versed in some things that computers are terrible, and vice versa - and some of them require a huge amount of human resources.

This is good for the world, and it is probably a good business strategy in principle - as existing jobs go away, a company that creates many new jobs should be able to get a lot of talented people.

Development tools

Software developers are affecting our daily lives more and more.

The products they use to create software are powerful tools: they have a significant impact on the quality and type of software being created.

We are interested in helping developers create software faster. This includes new ways of writing, understanding and collaborating on code, as well as the next generation of tools and infrastructure for the continuous and reliable provision of software.

We believe that it is especially important to create products that make software development accessible to the widest part of our society. In fact, we are especially interested in new ways of programming. There are probably much better ways for people to program, and finding one of them will have a huge effect.

The frameworks are better, the languages ​​are a little smarter, but basically we do the same.

You can think in this way: what will come after programming languages?


Robots will be the main way to achieve results in the physical world.

Our definition is rather broad - for example, we consider an unmanned vehicle as a robot. Robots are how we are likely to explore space, and perhaps even the human body.

Fake video protection

Fake videos are more and more common .

The technology of creating fake videos that are indistinguishable from real ones now exists, and soon it will be widely available to anyone with a smartphone.

We are interested in financing technologies that will provide the public with the tools necessary to identify fake video and audio.

Support creators

The Internet has facilitated the spread of creative work to millions of people, but no one understood how to help creators earn a living.

In art there is an army of mediators, which is located between the “artist” and the “spectator”.

Each broker eats away a portion of every dollar earned by the creator. We want to see more startups building a direct pipeline from artist to fan.

We believe that there are ways to create platforms more convenient for developers, and we are interested in projects that make it easier for creators to raise funds, track the use of their work and prevent piracy.

Transport and housing

About half of all energy is used for transportation, and people spend a huge amount of time on unhappy daily trips to work from the suburbs and back.

Face-to-face meetings are still very important; people still need to move. And housing continues to go up, partly due to transportation problems. We are interested in the fact that people can live somewhere in a good place, work together and make it easier to get to work from the suburbs and back.

In particular, we are interested in light-duty trips over short distances.

Underserved communities and social services

Tens of millions of working poor in America see no way to the middle class.

These people are forced to navigate the world with poor-quality services, low quality housing, crowded schools and crime in their areas. They often do not have a bank account and live from paycheck to paycheck.

The US government spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year on social services and social protection programs for these low-income communities.

We believe that large non-profit and commercial companies can bring technology and strong performance-based approaches to this widely ignored large market.

Voice assistants

Tens of millions of families have smart voice assistants.

We are interested in finding out which voice applications will have the most value on this new platform.

Voice applications are so different from typical web applications that we believe that creating products that attract and retain users will require a lot of innovation.

Companies with voice applications that participate in YC will have direct access to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

VR and AR

Virtual reality and augmented reality were a long time unfulfilled promise.

But we feel that the wave is coming, and it is time to start working on it.


How well you fit this list will never be the deciding factor in who we finance. As we have said many times, people are more important than ideas . In addition, you can not work well on something, if you really are not interested in it. So do not grab the idea described in the RFS if there is any other idea that you should work on. You are more likely to get funding to work on an idea that you really like.

For the translation, thanks to Diana Sheremieva and Andrei Goncharov.


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